-Shashank Pokharel

Startup scene in Kathmandu has never been as vibrant as it is today. Thanks to the dynamic youths who have rebelled against social norms of white-collar jobs and set upon a journey of entrepreneurship.

I recall participating in Ncell App Camp 2014 as a high school student. Without much knowledge of coding, I applied and was selected in the top 150. I didn’t win though! The eventual winners ICT for Agriculture, now branded as Krishi Guru was founded by an Electronics engineer Sibjan Chaulagain. Witnessing the lack of information on pest disease, weather, available market, and input supplies in his village, he created the app which has so far benefitted over 15,000 farmers from 12 districts. The mobile app serves as a database of agriculture and the team behind it also tries to solve farmers’ queries posted on the mobile app and their Facebook page. The app also lets the users know about market prices of crops in different towns of Nepal.

From one Electronics graduate to other, Pranab Pradhan worked for Nepal’s leading bamboo industry after returning from London with a Master’s degree. However in May 2015, he started his own enterprise Green Bamboo Creation. The startup is centered in the manufacturing and supply of eco-friendly bamboo products such as bamboo furniture, bamboo houses, bamboo handicrafts and home decor.

The trend-setters

Some 6 years back when rabbit farming was something unheard of, Ujjwal Chapagain established The Himalayan Rabbit Farm, the first commercial rabbit farm in Nepal on August 2012. The farm largely focuses on rabbit production, skin processing, farming promotion, meat tasting, marketing, etc. It also trains and assists farmers on commercial rabbit farming and the farm’s success has seen many farmers in different towns to take up rabbit farming.

DYK, based on nutritious content in rabbit, USDA has assigned rabbit meat as:
“The most nutritious meat ever known to mankind”.

The revolutionaries

The title of an article published on OnlineKhabar on September 17th, 2017 read “At 22, he’s the CEO of Nepali company that’s changed the lives of thousands of farmers”. Paras Katuwal is the young CEO of Nepal Thopa Sinchai, a company that sells and installs drip irrigation system and modern greenhouses all over Nepal. From a humble beginning with small size of projects, the company has served over 25,000 farmers since 3 years of its establishment.

There are some other agribusiness startups too, started by youths working on vivid areas. FICUS Biotech works on biotechnology with current focus on plant tissue culture technology of the Paulownia, Bamboo, Banana and Gerbera Daisy. Golden Peak sells premium teabags with 50 different flavours. Farm to Finger provides its urban customer base with high value indigenous agricultural products while Sunaulo Anda has been launched as 'branded eggs' in Nepal.

Startup scene might be buzzing lately thanks to easy access to information and desire among youths to do things differently but the same cannot be said about farming in general. Agriculture is an unproductive labour in Nepal; ground realities and social norms demotivate youths to take up farming. There is an immediate need to motivate youths towards agriculture. It could also be done through creation of safe physical, economic and digital spaces for youth, sitting on theme of International Youth Day 2018.

As much there is need of motivating 1500 or so youths who leave Nepal everyday to stay back and be involved in agriculture, there is more need of motivating the graduates in agri-related subjects, a priced asset of the nation, to also actually take up farming. A think-tank-styled, student-level inter-disciplinary group concerning with agriculture could be formed to find innovative solutions to existing problems in the sector.

Emphasis should be given to research-based projects for agriculture students. Although we have had some agribusiness startups in Nepal, but none are the extension of thesis, projects and researches. Entrepreneurial potential of these valuable projects should be sought out instead of shelving them. Local startup platforms should be developed and students should also be motivated to apply in global events like WFP Innovation Accelerator and Thought For Food.

Together we can change agriculture, together we can change Nepal!

A version of this article appears on our Medium Page.
First Published on Aug 12, 2018.